Gov. Terry McAuliffe formally rolled out his energy plan for Virginia on Tuesday, advocating more renewable sources such as solar and wind, efficiency and traditional resources including natural gas.
Federal dollars that have sustained the economies of northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, which has a huge military footprint, can’t be relied on in the future and an energy-based economy could be the solution, he said.
“Folks, those days are over,” McAuliffe told an audience of energy entrepreneurs, business representatives and environmentalists at the Science Museum of Virginia. “We need to build a new Virginia economy.”
The energy plan, which goes to the General Assembly, was filed with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy two weeks ago.
It promotes an “all of the above” strategy, but McAuliffe stressed the state must diversify its energy portfolio and promote more wind, biofuels and nuclear, in addition to solar. In terms of solar power, Virginia lags its neighbors, he said.
“Virginia needs to be a leader and we have not been in a leader in this area,” McAuliffe said.
The energy plan’s release also included the announcement that a state authority would be created to promote the solar industry. A similar authority already promotes offshore winds.
McAuliffe also promoted offshore wind development. Dominion Virginia Power holds the lease on 112,800 acres in the Atlantic about 27 miles off the coast for the development of wind power.
McAuliffe said the state has the deep-water port and infrastructure in Hampton Roads, a shipbuilding center, upon which an offshore wind industry could develop.
“Virginia is really serious about offshore wind,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe also stressed energy efficiency and the construction of pipelines in the state to deliver to Virginia cheap natural gas from rich shale reserves in West Virginia and elsewhere.
About 30 chanting anti-pipeline protesters awaited McAuliffe’s arrival outside the museum. Opposition to the pipeline proposed by Dominion and its energy partners has centered primarily on concerns that it would go through national forests and high-elevation terrain opponents say is unsuitable for construction.
Augusta County resident Mary Louise Fisher said the pipeline’s proposed path would be about a mile from her property. Her concern is a karst geology that is porous and prone to sinkholes.
“If the pipeline would break, that gas would be in the ground and it’s not localized,” Fisher said. “It can spread for miles because of the limestone formations in the ground.”
Among other conservation groups, the McAuliffe energy plan got mixed reviews.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, for instance, said the call for energy efficiency and more solar power was encouraging, but said McAuliffe’s support of the natural gas pipeline conflicts with his belief in climate change.
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